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TEC’s Office of Public Affairs releases video on governance restructuring

TEC’s Office of Public Affairs releases video on governance restructuring

“Becoming A Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society: An Adaptive Moment, a proposal to address and discuss potential restructuring of the Episcopal Church”, has been released by The Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs.

Presented by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church, Becoming A Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society: An Adaptive Moment is being shared pursuant to Canon I.2.4, which charges the Presiding Bishop with “responsibility for leadership in initiating and developing the policy and strategy in the Church.”

“The presentation represents thoughts and ideas from conversations with many other dedicated, committed people throughout the church.” Sauls said, “The idea is to spark conversation about our future.”

Addressing the concerns and needs of dioceses and congregations, Becoming A Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society: An Adaptive Moment offers an examination of the Episcopal Church’s governance mechanisms, funding, and resource allocation and asks for a discussion on all levels of the Church.

BECOMING A DFMS Presentation from The Episcopal Church on Vimeo.


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I find it somewhere between circular and silly to suggest that our church governance structures spend too much energy on governance.

Cursillo is great at putting on Cursillo weekends. Habitat for Humanity is great at building houses with volunteer labor. But there’s only one body we’ve got to set policy and budget for TEC, and that’s GC. GC has interim bodies because:

a) we want our governance structures to be responsive to our changing world — which, rather inconveniently, tends to have massive global events happen more often than once every three years, and sometimes happen in winter, when GC is months away from being able to respond; and

b) we’re blessed with people who have particular expertise, passion, and a sense of vocation to an area that GC thought was so important that BOTH bishops and deputies thought a CCAB should be formed around it. It is awfully convenient to have this ‘blue book’ thing to distill for both Houses the fruit of about 2.5 years of prayer and study.

I’ve never heard anyone who’s actually served on a CCAB characterize the work (and yes, it’s hard work that doesn’t pay a dime) as a sort of churchy dinner salon to yap about topics.

I believe we need a mechanism to revisit regularly whether interim bodies we’ve created have accomplished their purposes and can dissolve, and we need to simplify and fund the process of creating lean ad hoc task forces to respond deftly to sudden developments.

Bishop Sauls’ PowerPoint presentation distorts the picture by drawing a false contrast between governance and mission (governance is what ensures that funds collected for mission actually go there, for example). It also lists a bunch of temporary task forces that sunset as soon as they report and committees of Executive Council that cost the church nothing in themselves as if these were using the resources of, for example, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music.

It’s not just treating apples and oranges as equivalent; it’s like pretending that papayas, power drills, and poodles are equivalent.

Bishop Sauls makes some excellent points, but I think the kind of reforms he’s talking about are in some ways not nearly radical enough. They come entirely from people within current governance structures. We need to bring in the voices and expertise of people who have been sustaining effective and creative communities based mostly on horizontal networking for decades.

If that’s going to happen, it seems that it will have to be via initiative from (surprise!) mostly laity working alongside clergy and bishops who have maintained contacts with folks on the cutting edge of communities such as that for the Ubuntu operating systems for computers and perhaps the Occupy movement, among others.

Sure, let’s think about radical transformation. Bishop Sauls’ proposals seem at this point to be more about subtracting from existing structure than about empowering larger horizontal networks, though. I think a lot of it suggests movement in the direction precisely opposite from where effective change movements are going, and far away from what we need.

But Bishops Sauls is just one guy, albeit a brilliant and cool one, IMO. Time to bring in a large number of perspectives from people seriously experienced in mapping assets (not just money, but talent and time) and figuring out how to leverage them with the communications media we’ve got to make a real difference.

That’s my pennies’ worth at the moment. I am open to persuasion otherwise, but for now, I say that we haven’t thought seriously, creatively, and prayerfully enough about WHERE God is calling us to just sprint off with neither cloak nor sandals.

And we already have a blue-ribbon commission on how we might best structure the church. It’s called the Standing Committee on the Structure of the Church. Creating an additional body that doesn’t have a substantially different charge strikes me as wasteful, and doing so in the the name of slimming structure strikes me as hilariously ironic.


Sarah Dylan Breuer

Susan Kleinwechter

As an individual Episcopalian COMPLETELY outside of the “big church” process, I find it unhelpful that TEC released the video without context, saying only that it “is being shared pursuant to Canon I.2.4,” blah, bishop lead blah develop policy blah strategy blah.

What is the context of the video presentation? What is its relevance as a new initiative, or in response to discussion at general convention? Who were the bishops talking to in the room? Where were they? When was it? There’s no date, location, or context – none in the press release, or in the video itself, or in the ENS post, or on Vimeo. Aaargh.

Curious to find out more, and reading in the notice on “The Governance of The Episcopal Church: This information is another in an ongoing series discussing the governance of The Episcopal Church,” I looked on for information on governance; I looked for any other part of an ongoing series; I found nothing. I’m still at a loss for the context. This video cannot stand by itself, and it can’t be seen clearly from a lowly member of the church as part of a larger context. It’s almost as if TEC staff just spit it out; bluuugh, can’t prepare for it, can’t stop it, out it comes, splat. Be inspired? Nope, not me. After a fair 45-minute listen, and additional digging, I remain confused about the context this press release comes from and the particular direction it is supposed to take us. And context and direction are things I seriously need to see from the “big bishops” in my “big church.”

TEC staff seems serious in asking, “how do we reform to reflect where our heart is?” and “how do we BECOME a domestic and foreign missionary society again?” Perhaps a good approach would be to start such serious questions by presenting mission-focused, mission-initiating communication. I would have much more confidence in my “big church” making “big changes” if they released information in a proactive way, making an effort to connect to me, rather than just dumping stuff (like this video and press release) out to me.


I hate to say this, but the more I hear and observe and the more I witness the decline in our Church, the more I am beginning to realize that 815 is becoming irrelevant to the survival of the Episcopal Church. Being aware of the dynamics of organizational change, this is fascinating to watch but as the Body of Christ disheartening to endure.

blgriffith – please sign your name next time you comment – thx. ~ed.

Jim Naughton

Scott, I appreciate your outsider perspective on this.

There are other resolutions, some passed by diocesan conventions, some that may come from the Standing Committee of Structure, but they haven’t received this kind of visibility, because the resources of the church haven’t been used to publicize them. I am in hopes that eventually we can have a real conversation about the pros and cons of various schools of thought on the issue of restructuring.

To your larger point, I think power can be exercised by fewer people while preserving our polity, but I don’t think it can be done if the House of Deputies meets less often and the Executive Council no longer acts as the GC between conventions.

As far as frequency of meeting goes, it would be very difficult to make progress on something like LGBT issues, to take just one example, with a convention that met every five years.

Scott Lybrand

So, I guess my questions are: 1) what are the other proposals for restructuring the church? and 2) is there any way of restructuring that won’t put more power in the hands of fewer people? It seems to me that any decision to shrink or modify GC necessarily assigns power to fewer people than had power before.

I’d also like to point out that for those of us who operate on the margins of TEC already, changing one set of distantly-removed delegates for slightly fewer distantly-removed delegates, or changing convention from every 3 years to every 5 years, doesn’t really seem like that big of a deal. But waste of resources does seem like a really big deal.

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